Saving for the Future: Long-Term College Planning
Get tips on how to start saving money for college now.
The earlier you and your parents start saving for the future and putting aside college money, the more options you’ll have when it comes to where you get your degree.
But don’t think long-term college planning is just about saving money for college. Improving yourself as a college candidate will go a long way toward helping you both with college admissions and in securing you scholarships for college and other financial aid.
How to Improve Yourself as a Student
When you’re a freshman or sophomore, your long-term college planning focus should be on your education and getting involved in sports and joining school organizations and volunteer groups. Earning good grades and becoming a well-rounded student will help put you in the running for college scholarships, which can go a long way toward paying for those degree programs.
Keep in mind that not all scholarships for college are awarded based on financial need; some college aid is given to students with specific skills, interests, backgrounds or personal affiliations. Now is the time to start researching what types of scholarships and other college aid is out there. Talk to your parents’ employers, your employer and any organizations or groups you’re a part of to see if they offer college scholarships and what you’re required to do to be eligible for them.
Ways to Save Money for College
Making sound financial investments now will enable you to save up the college money you need. There are a number of savings plans available to help your money grow:
- 529 Plans (or Section 529 Plans): These saving plans are available in every state. The College Savings Plan Network can help you find a plan in your state. The plans come in two forms: prepaid tuition plans and savings plans.
- Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: These flexible plans let your earnings grow tax-free until they’re distributed.
- Custodial accounts, such as the Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA): Grandparents or parents can set up these accounts for kids who are under 14 who plan to attend colleges or universities.
- Savings bonds: These bonds are tax-exempt when used to cover the costs of education.
Saving for College Tips & Tactics
- Getting a part-time job will help you save money for college and can teach you skills that will help you in your college degree.
- As you look into financial aid, you may be confused about the differences between what’s out there: grants, scholarships and loans. College loans can be a very helpful way to help pay for college, but keep in mind that unlike federal grants and scholarships, loans have to be paid back with interest. So be sure you read all the fine print and compare student loans before you accept any college money with strings.
- When you’re joining student groups, go for quality over quantity. Colleges are much more impressed with students who are actively involved in a few organizations than those who join several groups but don’t accomplish much in any of them.
- Think you might want to get a graduate degree? Never too early to start saving for that either.
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